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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Some Trust In Horses Others Trust In Chariots

Now I know that Jehovah saves His anointed; He will hear him from His holy Heaven with the saving strengths of His right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of Jehovah our God. They have bowed down and fallen; but we have risen and stand upright. Save, O Jehovah; let the King hear us when we call. (Psalm 20:6-9)

A chariot is a vehicle used formerly in war, drawn by two or more horses, and conveying one or more men each. The vehicle itself is called a "car". In ancient days it was most commonly used for war. The Jewish chariots were patterned after the Egyptian, and consisted of a single pair of wheels on an axle, upon which was a cart with high front and sides, but open at the back.

A replica being made

A chariot like Joseph might have driven to meet his family.

A chariot was first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 41. If you don't know the story it's about a young boy named Joseph. He had eleven older brothers but he was his father's favorite. His father, Jacob, gave him a "coat of many colors" which was a significant gift and one which made his older brothers jealous. Then Joseph had some dreams that indicated that his brothers would bow before him one day. Young Joseph didn't use discretion and he blurted out his dreams to his family and it made the brothers even more jealous. One day, Joseph was sent to find his brothers. When he found them they plotted to kill him. Meanwhile they threw him in a well until they decided what to do. Later a merchant caravan from Egypt came by and they decided rather than kill him, they could make some money and they sold him as a slave. They told their father that Joseph had been attacked and eaten by a wild animal. Joseph was taken back to Egypt and sold to an Egyptian officer. He did so well in the household that he was promoted to be over the household affairs. The officer's wife wanted him and begged Joseph to sleep with her but he refused. Finally she plotted her revenge and she grabbed him. He took off leaving her with his cloak. She told her husband that Joseph had tried to rape her and so Joseph was sent to prison. In prison, he again distinguished himself and was eventually trusted with overseeing things. Finally the Pharoah had a dream that he couldn't interpret. He sent for his wisemen who also couldn't interpret the dream. Someone mentioned Joseph and he sent for Joseph. Joseph prayed and God gave him the dream and it's interpretation. There would be 7 years of plenty followed by 7 yrs of famine. Pharoah was so impressed that he made Joseph second only to him. So Joseph was in charge of saving up food during the years of plenty in order for the nation to survive during the coming years of famine. Sure enough, it came true as Joseph had prophesied. When his family became hungry, old Jacob sent his sons to Egypt to buy food. Joseph met them although the brothers did not recognize Joseph. Sure enough, the brothers would bow before Joseph. Joseph had forgiven them and he sent for his family to come to Egypt to live. How happy they were when they were reunited.

And Pharaoh said to Joseph, See, I have set you over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh took off his ring from his hand, and put it upon Joseph's hand. And he dressed him with fine linen robes, and put a gold chain around his neck. And he made him to ride in the second chariot which he had, and they cried before him, Bow the knee! And he made him ruler over all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh said to Joseph, I am Pharaoh, and without a word from you, no man shall lift up his hand or foot in all the land of Egypt. And Pharaoh called Joseph's name Zaphnath-paaneah. And he gave him Asenath, the daughter of Potipherah, priest of On, for his wife. And Joseph went out over the land of Egypt. And Joseph was thirty years old when he stood before Pharaoh king of Egypt. And Joseph went out from before Pharaoh, and went throughout all the land of Egypt. (Genesis 41:41-46)

And Joseph made his chariot ready, and went up to meet Israel his father, to Goshen, and presented himself to him. And he fell on his neck, and wept on his neck a good while. (Genesis 46:29)

The Israelites stayed in Egypt. At first they were treated as royalty, but they reproduced so rapidly that the later Egyptians saw them as a national threat and they enslaved them. After some 400 years, Moses was called to lead them safely out of Egypt back home. Their leaving Egypt to go back to the Land of Promise, the Promised Land, Canaan was called the Exodus. At first the Pharoah wouldn't listen to Moses' request to "Let my people go!" So God had Moses perform some miracles that tormented the Egyptians so badly that finally, Pharoah let them go. God went before them as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. He led them to the shores of the Red Sea.

And Jehovah hardened the heart of Pharaoh king of Egypt. And he pursued the sons of Israel, and the sons of Israel went out with a high hand. But the Egyptians pursued them, all the horses and chariots of Pharaoh, and his horsemen, and his army. And they overtook them camping by the sea, beside Pihahiroth, before Baal-zephon. And Pharaoh drew near, the sons of Israel lifted up their eyes. And, behold, the Egyptians marched after them. And they were very afraid. And the sons of Israel cried out to Jehovah. (Exodus 14:8-10)

Pharoah had a change of heart and took his army with him to chase after the Jews. God led Moses to stand at the edge of the sea and raise his arms and see the salvation of the Lord.

And the Angel of God, the one who went before the camp of Israel, moved. And he went to the rear of them. And the pillar of the cloud went from in front of their face and it stood behind them. And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel. And it was a cloudy and dark night, but it lit up the night, so that the one did not come near the other all night. And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. And Jehovah caused the sea to recede by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided. And the sons of Israel went into the midst of the sea upon the dry ground. And the waters were a wall to them on their right hand and on their left. And the Egyptians pursued and went after them to the middle of the sea, all Pharaoh's horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. And in the morning watch it happened that Jehovah looked to the army of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud, and troubled the army of the Egyptians. And He took off their chariot wheels, and made them go heavily, so that the Egyptians said, Let us flee from the face of Israel, for Jehovah fights for them against the Egyptians. And Jehovah said to Moses, Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the waters may come again upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots, and upon their horsemen. And Moses stretched forth his hand over the sea. And the sea returned to its strength when the morning appeared. And the Egyptians fled against it. And Jehovah overthrew the Egyptians in the middle of the sea. And the waters returned and covered the chariots and the horsemen, all the army of Pharaoh that came into the sea after them. There did not remain so much as one of them. (Exodus 14: 19-28)

Later, the Israelites/Jews/Hebrews questioned and disobeyed God one too many times and God made them wander in the Wilderness for 40 yrs until the last of that evil generation died. Then He led them to Canaan, the Promised Land, the Land flowing with milk and honey. He told them He would help them overcome all the different Canaanite tribes so that the Israelites could have their land back.

The Canaanites in the valleys of Palestine had chariots of iron.

And Jehovah was with Judah. And he took possession of the mountain. But he could not drive out those who lived in the valley, because they had chariots of iron. (Judges 1:19)

Jabin, the king of Canaan, had 900 chariots.

And the sons of Israel cried to Jehovah, for (Jabin) had nine hundred chariots of iron. And he mightily oppressed the sons of Israel twenty years. (Judges 4:3)

But the mountain shall be yours, for it is a forest, and you shall cut it down. And the outer limits of it shall be yours. For you shall drive out the Canaanites, even though they have iron chariots and though they are strong. (Joshua 17:18)

Later, the Philistines were a thorn in the flesh of Israel.

And the Philistines gathered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and people like the sand on the seashore in multitude. And they came up and pitched in Michmash, eastward from Beth-aven. (1 Samuel 13:5)

Once the Israelites were settled they demanded a human king like the nations around them. God had foreseen this.

When you come to the land which Jehovah your God gives you, and shall possess it and shall live in it and shall say, I will set a king over me, like all the nations around me, you shall surely set a king over you, whom Jehovah your God shall choose. You shall set a king over you from among your brothers. You may not set a stranger over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, so as to multiply horses, because Jehovah has said to you, You shall return no more that way from now on. (Deuteronomy 17:14-16)

When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots, a people more than you, do not be afraid of them. For Jehovah your God is with you, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 20:1)

Why didn't God want the Israelites to have chariots? Because they were war machines and it was too easy for the Jews to derive their security in the number of chariots, horses and trained fighting men rather than in God. They were suppose to trust in God and not in their army and weapons. God specifically mentions that they should not get horses and chariots from Egypt because He did not want them to go back from whence they came. God didn't want their hearts to turn back to their old ways and the ways of Egypt.

Sure enough, the Israelites demanded a human king. They were tired of their theocracy with God as their head. They got King Saul. After King Saul, there was King David.

David also struck Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates. And David took from him seventeen hundred horsemen, and twenty thousand footmen. And David hamstrung all the chariot horses but kept enough of them for a hundred chariots. (2 Samuel 8:3-4)

And David was told. And he gathered all Israel and passed over Jordan, and came to Helam. And the Syrians set themselves in order to meet David and fought with him. And the Syrians fled before Israel. And David killed the men of seven hundred chariots of the Syrians, and forty thousand horsemen, and struck Shobach the captain of their army, who died there. And all the kings, the servants of Hadarezer, saw that they were beaten before Israel, and they made peace with Israel and served them. And the Syrians feared to help the sons of Ammon any more. (2 Samuel 10:17-19)

King David's son, Solomon, was Israel's third king.
And Solomon gathered chariots and horsemen. And he had fourteen hundred chariots, and twelve thousand horsemen, whom he stationed in the cities for chariots, and with the king at Jerusalem. (1 Kings 10:26)

And Solomon had horses brought out of Egypt, and out of Kue. The king's merchants received them from Kue at a price. And a chariot came up and went out of Egypt for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for a hundred and fifty. And so for all the kings of the Hittites, and for the kings of Syria, they brought them out by their means. (1 Kinga 10:28-29)

So, they had done exactly what God told them NOT to do. They had disobeyed Him. Disobedience is a human characteristic. We don't want to obey God. It is the evil nature we are born with. If we obey God, life would be so much easier. God used the nation of Israel to show us how hard hearted we all are, how rebellious and hostile we are towards Him who loves us any way. In their continual disobedience, rebellion and hostility towards God and His Ways, the Israelites opened themselves up to punishment. God used other nations to "whoop their behinds". One was Assyria.

For Jehovah has turned away the glory of Jacob, as the glory of Israel. For the plunderers have plundered them, and have destroyed their vine branches. The shield of his mighty ones has become red; the mighty men are in scarlet; the chariots flame like iron torches in the day of his preparation. And the cypresses are made to quiver. The chariots race madly in the streets; they shall run to and fro in the open squares. Their appearance is like torches; they dart about like lightnings. (Nahum 2:2-4)

God kept trying to get His people to turn from their wicked ways. He sent prophets like Nahum to warn the people and to try to turn them back from their heedless and headlong rush to hell. When they still resisted, He led other nations to punish them. Each time, they would turn back to God for a little while before going back to their old ways. Are we not so like this! God tries to get our attention, tries to speak to us, tries to persuade and woo us but we ignore His loving touches. Sometimes it takes a 2 x 4 to get our attention and to turn us from our wicked ways. The idea of punishment is to stop the person from doing what has caused them pain and go in the opposite direction. If I touch a red hot stove I will get burned. That painful burn reminds me never to do that again. Unfortunately, some people will never listen to God and accept His plan of salvation and they will continue to rush pell mell down the slippery slope to hell. It is not God's desire that any should perish. He has provided a way for salvation and the Holy Spirit is constantly trying to speak to us all and show us the way but there will be those who refuse to listen and will scorn God until the day they die. It is their own fault when they find themselves in hell. Don't be so stubborn that it takes a butt kicking to get your attention. Listen to God's voice, be ready to obey, be willing to repent and turn your heart towards the One who loves you so much that He sent His Son to die on the cross for you.

Sure enough, the Israelites not only bought horses and chariots from Egypt but hired mercenary horsemen with their chariots to supplement the Israelite army. They bought horses and chariots from other countries too. King Solomon even had chariot cities built where the war chariots were stored during times of peace. I would assume that in these towns horses were bred and trained for war, horsemen were trained for war. In those towns, the chariots and horsemen represented a livelihood. Blacksmiths, leather makers, trainers, service establishments, the housing market, all depended on the war machines.

You are in for trouble if you go to Egypt for help, or if you depend on an army of chariots or a powerful cavalry. Instead you should depend on and trust the holy LORD God of Israel. The LORD isn't stupid! He does what he promises, and he can bring doom. If you are cruel yourself, or help those who are evil, you will be destroyed. The Egyptians are mere humans. They aren't God. Their horses are made of flesh; they can't live forever. When the LORD shows his power, he will destroy the Egyptians and all who depend on them. Together they will fall. (Isaiah 31:1-3)

And their land is full of silver and gold. There is no end of their treasures and their land is full of horses; nor an end of their chariots. And their land is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made. (Isaiah 2:7-8)

I hope I'm getting your attention. So what is the big deal about chariots? It's not chariots per se. It's putting our trust in anything other than God. The ancients depended on their armies, weapons and chariots. In the Middle Ages, people depended on their armies, armor, weapons and war machines. In the Civil War, both sides trusted their armies, cannons, weapons, munitions. Today we trust in our armies and the war machines of today. Be it tanks, fighter jets, bombs, nuclear warheads, satellites, early warning systems... these are the war machines today. Our Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines are dedicated and highly trained with the most sophisticated weapons and alert systems this world has ever seen. But we should never put our trust in them. They will do their best but they are human beings. They cannot be 100% and do everything perfectly. It's humanly impossible. I have all respect for them and I know these young men and women are willing and well trained and outfitted better than any warriors have ever been in the history of mankind. But they still bleed and die. We cannot put our trust in them. We cannot depend on them for our security. We should never forget that God is our salvation. He alone can take care of us. I'm not saying we shouldn't have a military. God called the Israelites to fight the Canaanites in order to clear them from the land. So there is a place for fighting. But we are NOT to depend on men and weapons as our protectors. Our protector is God and God alone! The difference is viewing our military as being used by God for His purposes. God is the head and in God we trust. I don't tell the hammer, "Thank you" when my house is built. I thank the one who used the hammer to build my house. Our military is a tool that God can use to protect America. I can show respect to those in our military. But I bow my knees to God to thank Him for what He has done to protect America. Remember, I also pointed out that God told them not to go back to Egypt to buy horses and chariots. What does that signify for today? Maybe we shouldn't be depending on the United Nations and the UN "peacekeeping" troops from all the different countries. We have no business going back to Egypt for their help. I.e. America was formed by people leaving other countries - Europe, Africa, Asia, etc. If it's in our national best interest to go to war against Iraq and Afghanistan, then maybe we don't need the UN's permission or their support. Now, I'm not trying to get political here. If I were the President of the United States, I wouldn't know what to do. Whether to continue this war or not is beyond my understanding. I'm intelligent and I see both sides so I'm not trying to take a political stand. I am saying that we should be on our knees before God. Our President, our Congressmen, our National Advisers, our Joint Chiefs of Staff... all who have to make decisions... should be on their knees before God asking Him what to do. We should be depending on Him. We should be attempting to do what God tells us to do, i.e. obey Him. It would not be remiss for our government to call for a day of prayer on behalf of our military and what to do next. Unfortunately, we have been in such a hurry to delete God from our government that we have opened ourselves up to a big butt whoopin'! I'm scared that if we don't repent and turn back to God, we are heading for big trouble. We are asking for God's punishment when we scorn Him and demand our own way rather than His way.

This story of the Prophet Elijah is interesting. Elijah was the older prophet of God. Elisha was a younger prophet who learned under Elijah. One day, it was time for Elijah to die and go to be with the Lord. He takes Elisha with him. Here is the story:
After they had reached the other side, Elijah said, "Elisha, the LORD will soon take me away. What can I do for you before that happens?" Elisha answered, "Please give me twice as much of your power as you give the other prophets, so I can be the one who takes your place as their leader." "It won't be easy," Elijah answered. "It can happen only if you see me as I am being taken away." Elijah and Elisha were walking along and talking, when suddenly there appeared between them a flaming chariot pulled by fiery horses. Right away, a strong wind took Elijah up into heaven. Elisha saw this and shouted, "Israel's cavalry and chariots have taken my master away!" After Elijah had gone, Elisha tore his clothes in sorrow. Elijah's coat had fallen off, so Elisha picked it up and walked back to the Jordan River. (2 Kings 2:9-13)

God, Himself, is depicted as arriving in a chariot.

The LORD will come down like a whirlwind with his flaming chariots. He will be terribly furious and punish his enemies with fire. The LORD's fiery sword will bring justice everywhere on this earth and execute many people. (Isaiah 66:15-16)

The chariots of God are myriads, thousands of thousands; the Lord is among them, in Sinai, in the holy place. (Psalm 68:17)

Was the LORD displeased against the rivers? was thine anger against the rivers, or thy wrath against the sea, that thou didst ride upon thine horses, upon thy chariots of salvation? (Habakuk 3:8)

In Ezekiel, there is a description of the majesty of the Lord God on His Throne.

On the fifth day of the month (it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin), the word of the LORD came to Ezekiel the priest, the son of Buzi, in the land of the Chaldeans by the Chebar canal, and the hand of the LORD was upon him there. As I looked, behold, a stormy wind came out of the north, and a great cloud, with brightness around it, and fire flashing forth continually, and in the midst of the fire, as it were gleaming metal. And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, but each had four faces, and each of them had four wings. Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the sole of a calf's foot. And they sparkled like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides they had human hands. And the four had their faces and their wings thus: their wings touched one another. Each one of them went straight forward, without turning as they went. As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle. Such were their faces. And their wings were spread out above. Each creature had two wings, each of which touched the wing of another, while two covered their bodies. And each went straight forward. Wherever the spirit would go, they went, without turning as they went. As for the likeness of the living creatures, their appearance was like burning coals of fire, like the appearance of torches moving to and fro among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning. And the living creatures darted to and fro, like the appearance of a flash of lightning. Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. Wherever the spirit wanted to go, they went, and the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. When those went, these went; and when those stood, these stood; and when those rose from the earth, the wheels rose along with them, for the spirit of the living creatures was in the wheels. Over the heads of the living creatures there was the likeness of an expanse, shining like awe-inspiring crystal, spread out above their heads. And under the expanse their wings were stretched out straight, one toward another. And each creature had two wings covering its body. And when they went, I heard the sound of their wings like the sound of many waters, like the sound of the Almighty, a sound of tumult like the sound of an army. When they stood still, they let down their wings. And there came a voice from above the expanse over their heads. When they stood still, they let down their wings. And above the expanse over their heads there was the likeness of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and seated above the likeness of a throne was a likeness with a human appearance. And upward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were gleaming metal, like the appearance of fire enclosed all around. And downward from what had the appearance of his waist I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and there was brightness around him. Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking. (Ezekiel 1:2-28)

"The likeness of the living creatures came out of the midst of the fire; angels derive their being and power from God. They have the understanding of a man, and far more. A lion excels in strength and boldness. An ox excels in diligence and patience, and unwearied discharge of the work he has to do. An eagle excels in quickness and piercing sight, and in soaring high; and the angels, who excel man in all these respects, put on these appearances. The angels have wings; and whatever business God sends them upon, they lose no time. They stood straight, and firm, and steady. They had not only wings for motion, but hands for action." -Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary

These beings are 4 in number in Ezekiel's vision because they have 4 faces to show. In reality, there are many more Cherubim.
"As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:9-10)

We've seen how chariots were used in war and how bad things got when those ancient peoples trusted in their strong military rather than in God. We've seen how God arrives in His own chariots. I think I'd rather trust in God. Those ancient chariots are turned to dust now except for a few rickety ones in museums. But God, on His chariots of fire and salvation, still rules. One day our tanks, bombs, jets and war ships will be rusting somewhere. Our military bases will be empty and the towns that depended on them for their livelihood will be ghost towns. But God will still be on His Throne and will be from everlasting to everlasting. He never grows old, never dies. He never deserts His people. Even if He has to bring some punishment to our lives, it is only to get us to go in the right direction. It is a mere correction. We, who are His Own, His Children... We, who are saved through Jesus Christ, will spend eternity with Him in Heaven. No one can pluck us out of His Hands. Yes, I'd rather trust in Him!

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